I was listening to Tozer again and came across this really good quote in his fourth sermon, “If You Won’t Worship, the Rocks Will,”* in his “The Chief End of Man” series. I will give you the quote first, and then add some observations below:
It is quite a significant thing that all the great hymns—not all of them, but almost all the great hymns that ever were written came out of revivals of some kind. They came out of the Lutheran Reformation, they came out of the Wesleyan revival, they came out of the Moravian revival, they came out of the times when the church of God labored and the Spirit fell upon her. Heaven was opened and she saw visions of God, and radiant beams from the throne above reflected from the hearts of his people, and then men wrote hymns, and we’re still singing them. And I suppose if the Devil has a sense of humor–I don’t know whether he has or not; I suppose he has; Khrushchev has—The Devil has a sense of humor, I think he must laugh from his sooty sides when he sees a bunch of dead Christians singing a hymn written by a live composer. . . . When he hears them, he hears a fellow groaning through them—a lot of hymns are great hymns, and I didn’t like them in my early days, and the reason I didn’t like them was that I heard them sung under bad auspices in unfortunate situations. . . . You get into a dead prayer meeting on Wednesday night with a dead leader who doesn’t expect anything with dead people in front of him who don’t expect anything and would be shocked if anything happened, and you get them to singing some grand old hymn, and brother, they can not only kill it, they can embalm it. They put it where it’s just no good at all, and my heart reacted against it. The Holy Ghost comes on, and the people are worshipful people. They’ve got to be worshipful people.
So God wants you to worship him, and then out of your fiery worship he wants you to work for him, but he doesn’t want you to jump up and start up some amateurish religious toil. I heard a college president say one time that the Church of Christ is suffering from a rash of amateurism, and he certainly hit the nail right in the middle of the head that time. We’re suffering from a rash of amateurism; any untrained, unprepared, unspiritual, empty rattle-trap of a fellow who’s a bit ambitious can start himself something that’s religious. Then we all listen to him and pay and we promote and work to try to help this fellow who never heard from God in the first place. Amateurism gone mad, gone wild. That’s because we’re not worshippers. Nobody that worships God is likely to do anything off-beat or out of place. Nobody who’s a “worshipper indeed” is likely to give himself up to carnal and worldly religious projects.
That last paragraph is great. I also found interesting Tozer’s explanation of why he did not initially like old hymns–they were being sung by disinterested people. It was not the “old tune,” or the fact that they were somehow irrelevant to his “generation,” but the lack of spirituality of the people singing them that made them uninteresting and dead. I think this has some validity for explaining why some people turn away from the old hymns, but it also serves as a warning for those of us committed to these grand and ancient texts and tunes not to fall into the same error. The problem is that this error is not one that we can prevent by a mere act of our own will. We must be persevering to the end, calling and praying that the Spirit would would enliven us and quicken us to true spiritual worship all the days of our lives.
*The Christian Missionary Alliance website offers the following disclaimer on the use of their audio: ©2005 Tozer Sermons, The Christian and Missionary Alliance. All rights reserved. The Tozer audio sermons are for PERSONAL USE ONLY. Downloading, reproducing or mastering the files, either manually or electronically, for commercial use or resale purposes is strictly forbidden. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited by law and all rights are reserved by The Christian and Missionary Alliance.